PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Jim Furyk is the next United States Ryder Cup captain, a role many still believe is about as essential as a snowplow driver here in sunny South Florida.
I used to think that way. Used to think that a captain merely picked out a few matching outfits, paired a few of the world’s best golfers, then sat back and watched, patting ’em on the butt like a glorified first-base coach.
Paul Azinger changed my mind back in 2008, when he employed personality profiling to group players in a pod system that worked to perfection. He didn’t just oversee the U.S. team; he managed it to its first victory in nearly a decade by giving players a sense of responsibility and accountability — not just that week, but for months ahead of time.
Paul McGinley reinforced that opinion three years ago, revealing himself to be the ultimate tactician behind another European conquest. At its roots, captaining a Ryder Cup team is like one of those old choose-your-own-adventure books. Unlike his counterpart Tom Watson, McGinley always had a Plan D if A, B and C didn’t work out.
And it’s no coincidence that the U.S. team finally won again three months ago. Make all the task force jokes you’d like — we’ve all done it — but the committee that appointed Davis Love III to the captaincy strategized a long-term plan to once again form a more cohesive unit than in previous years. Sure, doubters will still insist that the team that makes the most putts wins. But when a leader places a certain accountability upon his players, those putts seem to drop more often than otherwise.